PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate is a synthetic polymer that functions as an emollient, surfactant, and emulsifier in cosmetics and personal care products.
PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate is a polyethylene glycol (PEG) ether of glyceryl cocoate. Glyceryl cocoate is a monoester of glycerin and coconut fatty acids, which are both very beneficial to the skin. Glycerin, also referred to as glycerol, is a natural alcohol and humectant that helps the skin to retain moisture. Coconut fatty acids restore the skin’s lipid barrier, which also improves the skin’s moisture retention.
PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate is produced by the ethoxylation of glyceryl cocoate. Ethoxylation is a chemical reaction in which ethylene oxide is added to a substrate. In this case, 7 units of ethylene oxide are added to glyceryl cocoate (hence the 7 in the ingredient name).
In cosmetics and personal care products, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate functions as an emollient, surfactant, and emulsifier for oil-in-water emulsions.
As an emollient, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate provides a lightweight and non-greasy barrier of lubrication that helps to increase moisture retention at the skin’s surface. This property makes PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate very useful for products such as lotions, creams, and facial moisturizers. While all skin types can benefit from emollients like PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, emollients are especially helpful for those who have dry, rough, and/or flaky skin. Emollients can alleviate these symptoms, leaving the skin looking and feeling soft and smooth. In addition, emollients can benefit those that suffer from conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or other inflammatory skin conditions.
PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate also functions as a surfactant because it contains one end that is hydrophilic (attracted to water) and one end that is lipophilic (attracted to oil). Surfactants work by lowering the surface tension between two substances, such as two liquids or a liquid and a solid. This allows surfactants to attract and suspends oils, dirt, and other impurities that have accumulated on the skin and wash them away. Due to these properties, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate can be found in many different cleansers, shampoos, and body washes.
As an emulsifier, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate is often used in formulations that contain both water and oil components. Mixing water and oil together creates a dispersion of oil droplets in water (and vice versa). However, these two phases can separate if the product is left to settle. To address this problem, an emulsifier like PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate can be added to the system to help the droplets remain dispersed. Emulsifiers improve the consistency of a product, which enables an even distribution of topical skin care benefits. PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate is used to form oil-in-water emulsions.
The safety of the PEG glyceryl cocoate ingredients, including PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that these ingredients were safe for use in rinse-off products and safe up to 10% in leave-on products.
Despite the approval of PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate by the CIR Expert Panel, there are concerns about the presence of ethylene oxide in this ingredient. This is because the process of ethoxylation may lead to contamination with 1,4-dioxane, a potentially dangerous by-product. 1,4-dioxane is a known animal carcinogen that penetrates readily into the skin. According to the National Toxicology Program, “1,4-dioxane is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” It has also been linked with skin allergies. However, the potential presence of 1,4-dioxane can be controlled through purification steps to remove it before blending PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate into cosmetic formulations.
References: Cosmetics Info “PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate”, Organic Consumers Organization, “1,4-Dioxane and Cosmetic Safety”